12 March 2020, The Tablet

Eel life

Eel life

Last week a man was given a suspended sentence for smuggling millions of pounds worth of live elvers, known as glass eels, from the UK to China. In among the news of coronavirus and flooded towns, the story of the illegal baby eels has a strange poignancy. There is a connection between elvers and the spread of the virus and the wretched suffering of those whose houses are now regularly flooding.

Scientists believe that this latest coronavirus strain originated in birds, before infecting live animals sold in “wet” food markets and then to the humans who visited these places. In China these markets have a near cult status. The live creatures sold there include wild animals and birds, many poached or trapped and sometimes endangered species – such as elvers.

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